Sprains and strains are common injuries affecting the muscles and ligaments. Most can be treated at home without seeing a GP.
It's likely to be a sprain or strain if:
For the first couple of days, follow the 4 steps known as RICE therapy to help bring down swelling and support the injury:
To help prevent swelling, try to avoid heat (such as hot baths and heat packs), alcohol and massages for the first couple of days.
When you can move the injured area without pain stopping you, try to keep moving it so the joint or muscle does not become stiff.
Speak to a pharmacist about the best treatment for you. They might suggest tablets, or a cream or gel you rub on the skin.
If needed, you can take ibuprofen tablets, capsules or syrup that you swallow.
After 2 weeks, most sprains and strains will feel better.
Avoid strenuous exercise such as running for up to 8 weeks, as there's a risk of further damage.
Severe sprains and strains can take months to get back to normal.
Sprains and strains happen when you overstretch or twist a muscle.
Not warming up before exercising, tired muscles and playing sport are common causes.
You may be given self-care advice or prescribed a stronger painkiller.
If you need an X-ray, it might be possible to have one at the unit, or you may be referred to hospital.
If you have a sprain or strain that's taking longer than usual to get better, a GP may be able to refer you to a physiotherapist.
Physiotherapy from the NHS might not be available everywhere and waiting times can be long. You can also get it privately.